If not for these five turkey hunting mistakes, I may have already tagged a new county turkey record with my bow.
As hunters, many of us learn through experience. The more experience you have, the more knowledge you obtain. When it comes to hunting, knowledge is powerful. One of the hardest things to understand, is in the end mistakes are beneficial, as long as we learn from them.
For me, I have made many hunting mistakes in my 20+ years of hunting. This past week however, I’ve made five, easily correctable, mistakes. If not for these, I would probably have a new county record for turkey with a bow.
1. Getting too close
The night before opening day we camped out in our camper. No power, no running water, just my two buddies, some homemade venison jerky, Jim Beam and the night sky. We had a difficult time locating birds off the roost but had an idea as to where they may be.
As the sun came up the next morning the woods were full of sounds and the birds were gobbling hot off the roost. As we found our first set of gobblers to set up on, we wanted to get above them and instead of sitting back 100-150 yards, we tried to creep in to about 75 yards.
During this time, the two gobblers were also headed our way and what was supposed to be 75 yards turned out to be a mere 50 yards when we got everything set up. As we placed our last decoy, the birds became quiet and a flash of their tail feathers were seen running in the opposite direction from our set up.
This could have been prevented if we had just set up a little further back and worked the birds to our set up. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the season, we find ourselves getting a little too excited and making the same hunting mistakes we’ve made in the past. This is one mistake that will not happen again.
2. Not being prepared for the quiet bird
I’m fortunate enough to hunt a property that has several birds on them and able to travel around 300 acres to where if I make a mistake, I can circle around and try again from another angle. Those two birds that headed away from us earlier, we decided to try to cut off.
As we made our set up approximately 500 yards ahead of the direction they were traveling, we saw two other gobblers in the distance. We began calling to those birds with an immediate response. Our focus turned to those two gobblers in hopes they would catch our decoy set up and head our way.
With our eyes on the two gobblers in the distance, we totally forgot the reason we had set up there in the first place; to cut the other two gobblers off. This caused for a 2 to 0 scoreboard, turkeys to hunters, as two gobblers walked right in behind us at 20 yards. They gave us a good awakening with a gobble, then caught our movement and beat feet.
What I take from this experience as well as several experiences in the past is to ALWAYS be prepared when turkey hunting. Turkeys don’t always gobble and many times will come in quiet. Keep movement to a minimum and be ready at all times.
3. Charge your batteries
This one doesn’t pertain to everyone, but if you are in to filming your own hunts, this is extremely important. As we set up on one gobbler that same opening day, we made an agreement we wouldn’t shoot a turkey unless we had it on film. Well, you can’t film unless you have batteries capable of turning on your camera equipment.
As the bird came into the decoys, the camera showed 70 minutes left of battery, however, for some reason went black. Trying to change a battery with a gobbler 20 yards from you is extremely difficult when you are not in a blind.
Learn from these hunting mistakes to always be prepared, limit movement, and have your back up batteries readily available at all times. Electronics some times fail, but many things like keeping charged batteries are preventable.
4. Shot placement is important
As a hunter, I like a challenge. I enjoy the challenge that bowhunting gives which is why I spend most of my time with a bow in my hand instead of a gun. When turkey hunting, understanding the anatomy of a turkey is extremely important. A turkey’s vitals are so small, that patience and practice are the only two things that can really ensure your success in the field.
During the hunt in the video below, we had been watching this bird for quite some time which had a daily routine. Knowing this, I set up accordingly and began to call him in. He was in full strut as he came 150 yards across the field and for video, I couldn’t ask for a better set up. After my recent interview with Dustin Plummer who just set the new Virginia State turkey record, I began checking on the county that I hunt, for local records. The bird in this video, I believe depending on the size of his spurs, had a chance at the new county record for bow in Maryland.
As he made his way in to my set up, I made the shot at a mere 20 yards. The shot originally I thought was perfect. I took my time, lowered my pin, and released the arrow. What I found after breaking down the video, is that the shot placement, because the bird was “quartering to”, was slightly back. A second shot was made on the bird ultimately leading to the harvest.
Learning from this, I’m reminded that practice makes perfect. Many times as bow hunters we get complacent and forget to practice. This could result in missing your target or worse, fatally wounding your game with no recovery. Turkeys are very difficult to track so making a clean, accurate shot is extremely important when hunting with a bow.
5. Face your blind door towards the turkey
This is more of a tip in what I’ve learned with the previous bird. As I set up my blind, I had the zipper for the door facing the rear which is how I normally leave my blinds for deer hunting. Having the door in the rear, I am able to get in and out without being caught walking in front of the blind. When I’m turkey hunting, I use a pop up blind and the movement that I make to set up the blind, offsets the need to keep the door in the rear of the blind.
As I shot the turkey with the bow, I immediately tried to complete a follow up shot. With the bird being too far away and beginning to run, I knew I had to get out of the blind quick to keep my eye on the bird. If you have never tracked a turkey before, it is very difficult as I mentioned earlier. One thing you want to do is get your eyes on the bird immediately as he leaves the area. Keeping an eye on the bird can make a difference between a recovery and a lost bird.
By keeping the door in the front of your blind, you can benefit in two ways.
First, you can keep your eye on the bird as he runs. While unzipping, you are facing forward and do not need to turn your back to him to unzip the door in the rear of the blind, ultimately allowing you to keep your eye on the turkey the entire time.
Second, it allows you to quickly exit and move towards your bird. When you have the door in the rear, like I did, you not only turned your back to him, but you now have to run around your blind to move towards the turkey. This may not seem like a big deal, but when seconds count, you would be surprised how much of a difference this can make.
Learn from my mistakes.
If you take anything from my writings, it’s that I am human. I never claim to be perfect nor do I claim to be an expert. One thing for sure, and my family and fiance can attest to this, I spend a lot of time in the woods. I take months off from work at a time to travel to hunt and I am very thankful for this opportunity.
With the time I spend in the woods, I make many hunting mistakes. Sometimes, a mistake can work out and we can just call it luck, but more times than not, the mistakes I’ve made have had me reminding myself to hold my head up. In the end we are all human. Taking from our hunting mistakes and other’s hunting mistakes, only makes us a better hunter. So do yourself a favor and don’t repeat the mistakes I’ve already made this turkey hunting season. Good luck and happy hunting.